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Evasive manoeuvres

Fudging the complexities of our relations with China
November 2020, no. 426

China’s Grand Strategy and Australia’s Future in the New Global Order by Geoff Raby

Melbourne University Press, $34.99 pb, 240 pp

Evasive manoeuvres

Fudging the complexities of our relations with China
November 2020, no. 426

Scott Morrison does not like to explain the decisions he makes on our behalf. Sometimes he just refuses to discuss them, as he did when, as immigration minister, he simply rejected any questions about how his boat-turnback policy was being implemented at sea. At other times he is a little subtler, as he has been this year while presiding over what will probably prove to be the most consequential shift in Australia’s foreign relations in decades. The collapse in relations with our most powerful Asian neighbour and most important trading partner is not just Canberra’s doing, of course; it has resulted from decisions made in Beijing too. But Australia’s recent and current choices have certainly contributed to the chill, and our future choices will do much to determine where things go from here.

Our prime minister evades any serious discussion of these choices with a simple but powerful rhetorical manoeuvre. He denies that he is making any choices, because the issues at stake mean that he, and we, have no real alternatives to the policy he is adopting. He justifies this by claiming that those issues engage our interests, our values, and our sovereignty, and as such are non-negotiable. Any course of action other than the one he has chosen would fatally compromise this inviolable trinity, and would be an unthinkable betrayal of our country. Thus, he implies, there really is no choice for any decent patriotic Australian but to accept what he has done.

Hugh White reviews 'China’s Grand Strategy and Australia’s Future in the New Global Order' by Geoff Raby

China’s Grand Strategy and Australia’s Future in the New Global Order

by Geoff Raby

Melbourne University Press, $34.99 pb, 240 pp

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Comments (3)

  • I found Hugh White’s review of Geoff Raby’s new book to be an excellent overview of a work that should be read by Australians and Americans. China has emerged, and will continue to emerge, as a great power. But it is a regional power. China has neighbours on its borders – fourteen of them. Many of them are not fond of the Chinese. China knows this. Raby’s book brings some sanity and much needed honesty about what China really wants. Basically it wants the United States out of East Asia. China wants to create what the Japanese failed to do in the late-1930s – the East Asian Prosperity Sphere. It is getting closer to attaining this goal every day. Australia must act much more independently. Yes, it needs America. No one doubts that. But Australia also needs China. Period. Prime Minister Scott Morrison must stop mimicking the US leadership. This will only get him into trouble. It is time that Australia develops and promotes its own national interests, regardless of whether America or China likes it. If Australia, as in the 1930s, refuses to create and embrace its own agenda and policies for Asia, the nation may find itself highly vulnerable if the East Asian situation grows ominous. A nation of twenty-six million people may become very isolated in a neighbourhood consisting of 4.5 billion Asians. Raby’s book is basically asking Australians, ‘Are we doing what is right for Australia and its future?’ If the answer is no, the nation’s leadership needs to start creating a new blueprint for the country’s future in a region that is in many respects undergoing a revolution.
    Posted by Randall Doyle
    13 November 2020
  • What a strong leftist view you have! Your disregard for the prime minister is current with the popular trend of blindly voicing opinions and never digging for facts.
    A boring read.
    Posted by Tania Jaskiewicz
    07 November 2020
  • Thank you for calling out the bizarre premise that all growing economies are bent on global domination. In the case of China, barring a few obscure and trifling anecdotes, it appears to be all but completely groundless and has its origins in the same feeble thinking that leads the man in the street to believe the most ludicrous of conspiracy theories.

    That the coronavirus has been used as a weapon with which to attack China is the very height of stupidity. Europe and the United States and Australia were completely blind-sided by the emergence of Covid-19 and the result has been a shambolic mess. Yet somehow we are supposed to believe the absurd proposition that China deliberately concealed the gravity of the problem, rather than that likewise, they had no idea what they were dealing with and shared in the disorientation that has been our shared lot for much of 2020.
    Posted by Patrick Hockey
    06 November 2020

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